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The Prism

Eye on the Media
  1. Anti-Apartheid Activist Desmond Tutu Interviewed by Prism Editor (Sort of)
  2. News & Observer accepts US / Mexico attempts to define repression as 'drug war'
  3. Public support gets Fear and Favor to Air!
  4. Back at it again
  5. A letter written to the National Public Radio program Fresh Air.
  Anti-Apartheid Activist Desmond Tutu Interviewed by Prism Editor (Sort of)

The other day I tuned my shortwave radio to the Voice Of America, the official broadcasting service of the US Government (under the US Information Service).

The program on at the time was Talk-to-America, an international call-in talk show. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was being interviewed on the struggle for equality and respect by South African blacks. Tutu was Archbishop of the Anglican Church, and was constant in his public opposition to the racist, fascist government of South Africa.

On the spur of the moment I decided to call in, and while on hold thought up this (clumsy) question:

My question was if the Bishop had any advice or perspective on those people, friends of mine often, who still are fighting for what they view as a need for racial and economic justice in the US. As an example, local people, say in some of the major cities, like Durham and Raleigh, feel that some of the changes to welfare law will not only hurt a lot of women, but hurts mainly ... in the cities, African Americans. Or poultry workers, in some areas who are mainly African Americans but who in other areas are mainly Hispanic, and they organize to get decent pay and working conditions. And so, it's so different from what is going on in South Africa, but I'm curious if you have any perspective or advice for my friends here.

A flawed question, but listeners around the world heard about some of our local struggles.

Bishop Tutu advised that those of us with "sensitive consciences" should endeavor over time to persuade those who control power to change, to begin to create the kind of society that says, "People matter." People matter even more than profit. And that when you begin to make people feel that they count, the returns that you get are extraordinary. But we've got to be looking to create a compassionate and caring society. And you will be amazed at the repercussions, the results, which will spill out to... the advantage, not of just those you have helped, but to the advantage of the whole of society.

If people are resentful, if people are angry, if people are unhappy, there's going to be social instability. And I think that one of the things from my perspective that does constantly surprise me about the United States is when you have racial outbursts, and when you have things like what you might call the OJ Simpson syndrome ... [When after the verdict] one set of people are elated and another set are dejected.

It may be that [as a nation] you have not taken seriously [to] looking at your past. Looking at the fallout and the legacy of the Civil War, and slavery, what did these things do to your fellow Americans, and just be serious in acknowledging some of the things which cause considerable anguish to your fellow citizens.

Getting the powerful here to accept that people are more important than profit is going to be a challenging task.

—Jeff Saviano

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News & Observer accepts US / Mexico attempts to define repression as 'drug war'

The Raleigh News & Observer is peddling deadly fiction by featuring articles such as "Bragg training Mexican force for drug war" (3/2/98). Does anyone who knows about recent events in Mexico actually believe that the specialized military training offered to Mexican soldiers is being used for drug interdiction?

With the appearance of at least two guerrilla forces in southern Mexico since 1994, you can bet that the Washington guardians of NAFTA investments are fully focused on that instability.

The 7th Special Forces commander is quoted in the article as saying that the military training is "expressly counter-narcotics, because we are not allowed to do" counterinsurgency training. As Stan Goff, a 7th Special Forces veteran and frequent Prism writer, confirmed for me, "The tactics we taught in Peru and elsewhere in Latin America were counterinsurgency. They had nothing to do with drug interdiction, although that was the stated program."

You can also be sure that some of the Mexican soldiers trained at Ft. Bragg and elsewhere will be involved in maintaining death squads, such as the one which carried out the pre-Christmas massacre of 45 civilians in Chiapas. A Mexican government document exposed in the magazine Proceso (Jan. 4, 1998 issue, referring to an October, 1994 document called "Chiapas 94 Plan" written for the National Defense Secretary of Mexico) explicitly calls for the creation, support and training of paramilitary forces, i.e., death squads.

A casual reader of the News & Observer might be misled into believing the official lie that Mexican soldiers are being trained to fight drugs. With coverage like that, massacres and atrocities may proceed unimpeded.

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Public support gets Fear and Favor to Air!

Fear and Favor in the Newsroom, an excellent video about self-censorship by major newsmedia organizations, will be shown by WUNC-TV on April 14 at 10pm, following Frontline.

Our inside sources say it was your phone calls which tipped the balance. Please call WUNC-TV after the airing to thank them, at 549-7060. (E-mail: viewer@unctv.org)

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Back at it again

The Prism's former Chiapas correspondent, Maria Darlington, deported from Mexico in February, is about to assist Pastors for Peace. Their caravan will be taking more than 12 tons of medicine and food to Mexico after converging on San Antonio, TX, on April 12. (Weekly News Update on the Americas, 3/22/98.)

— Preceding three items by David Kirsh

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A letter written to the National Public Radio program Fresh Air.

The New Yorker has fallen a long way since the days when it published Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. It now plies readers with cheap thrills and sensationalism. Instead of exploring the lessons that we and our allies have taught the world regarding the use of chemical and germ warfare (Winston Churchill successfully urging the use of lethal gas warfare agents against the "recalcitrant tribesmen" in Iraq, and our own leaders over the last several decades approving biological warfare attacks against our neighbors in Cuba), the magazine hands over this lurid topic to a self-interested novelist who can be depended on to hype the dangers and point fingers at others. Instead of seeking to improve our example to the world, we — safely on the other side of the world — are encouraged to shiver at dangers that even during recent developments, Iraq's neighbors do not take seriously.

Decades of investment in demonizing the Soviets is too convenient for novelists to set aside now. But do you think that our nation's biological warfare programs have no stories like that of the U. Marberg virus? Remember, it's the Soviet intelligence records that have been opened. Ours remain sealed, as if we live out a desperate, back-to-the-wall struggle against the world.

What we've heard from Preston and Tucker is only one provocative, current thread of an official government line which, at its worst, attempts to justify unilateral intervention anywhere in the world.

Through our nation's immense military economy, we have become invested in conflict. It's a situation that Anthropologist Margaret Mead, in an NPR interview years ago, spoke out against with considerable anger — she referred to it as "spreading danger in the world". One of its fruits is the development of biological and chemical weapons by some of the non-nuclear nations, which leads of course to yet another layer of profitable technology, carried forward at taxpayer expense by high-tech "security", or "defense" industries. And there are plenty of scholars and writers who make their living as experts in this system.

Since you've opened this important subject, you'll want to read a recent column by Alexander Cockburn, in The Nation magazine, on the use of biological weapons by our fair country. If you and he both have time, I'd love to hear your discussion of some recent history and some real challenges that your listeners are certainly mature enough to grasp.

When I travelled with a bus load of human rights advocates to Washington a year or two ago, to lobby for the closure of the SOA — US Army School of the Americas — also known as the "school of assassins", we met with State Department officials who defended briskly the covert and overt tactics that continue to place the interests of international big business ahead of the health, education, and general welfare of most of the people in Latin America.

An elderly official closed by praising Russian physicist Andrei Sakharov for his work on human rights and his criticism of the excesses of the Soviet Union. I suppose he meant that we should look abroad for someone to reform. But what this official had failed to understand was that while it was Sakharov's responsibility to criticize the Soviet government, it is our responsibility to criticize and struggle to improve the actions of our own government.

This is a role that journalist Alexander Cockburn takes on with humor and enthusiasm, and a clear recollection of history.

—by Jerry Markatos, chmn, Witness For Peace, Southeast, Pittsboro, NC. Call (919) 542-2139 for information on WfP.

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